There are some words that carry both just and unjust connotations. “Judgment” is one of them.
In our legal system, we have judges who we hope will uphold the law in a compassionate and fair manner. However, most of us don’t like to appear before a judge, even when they are highly qualified. And we for sure don’t like to be judged by others or treat people in a way that makes them feel judged.
Yet we are making judgment calls all the time: That person is a bad driver, a lousy planner, a crummy cook. That kind of binary judgment isn’t nice, and when you are a manager it can dramatically impact someone’s career and livelihood. Think about it, you make hiring decisions based on judgment, and you use the same judgment to decide on a career promotion or a raise. It comes into play with everything: Which strategy should we chase? Which product should we build? How do we solve that problem?
Every day, you are making hundreds of judgments and they are driving all of your decisions. It is my hope that you will embrace this fact and do everything in your power to become aware of these judgments, and then make decisions in a transparent and open way.
This is a really complicated issue. Sometimes we think we are making decisions with the appropriate facts, but we all have unconscious biases that affect our choices. They lead us to hire someone that acts like us or seems familiar. They cause us to stay away from something we don’t know or don’t understand.
None of this means that we should shy away from making decisions. We just have to learn to make better judgments and filter them with experience and wisdom and then use that to make smarter and more thoughtful decisions. Here’s what to keep in mind:
• Conduct decisions with an air of wonder. Ask yourself, “Do I have all the facts I’d like to have?” “Am I missing anything?” (You always are.) Are there unconscious biases creeping in? Ask: “Have I thought of everything else?” and go back and reconsider.
• Ask others for their opinions on what they would do if they were you. Make sure you are not insular—don’t think you always know better. Don’t be afraid of asking for help if you don’t know the answer and you have time. This doesn’t mean you will not make the decision, but gathering more input is often helpful. (And the real mastery when is everyone else thinks they made the decision, but you did!)
• Determine if this is a decision that you have to make. If someone else can do it, that’s good; it’s an opportunity for them to hone their judgment. As a leader, you should always be working to enable that.
• Understand the time constraints of the decision and proactively decide whether to make a decision or not.Does the situation require an answer now? If so, make it. Too many people delay making decisions, but that is, in essence, making a decision.
• Learn how to keep honing your judgment so you keep getting better. If you make the wrong decision, learn from it. Judgment gets better with age, experience, practice and an open mind.
We all must realize that we are all judging everyone, every day. Do your best to have pure and transparent motives, which will help you make fair and better judgments and clear and correct decisions.